MONTREAL – In 1944-45, when Maurice Richard was the first to score 50 goals in 50 games, the Canadiens and their five NHL opponents were playing 50 games per season.
The “Rocket” has therefore established the parameters of a very difficult feat to achieve: that of scoring 50 goals in 50 games. A major feat, whether in the first 50 games of the season or in a streak during a long season that now counts 82 games.
Michael Bossy – who has the support of the entire hockey world in his fight against cancer – was the second to imitate Maurice Richard. He did so in 1980-1981, 36 years after the man who gave his name to the trophy awarded annually to the best sniper in the NHL.
The following season, Wayne Gretzky pushed the limits of the impossible with his 50 goals scored in his first 39 games of the season; with his 61 goals scored in his first 50 games. Two years later, he went from 50 goals after 42 games, to 61 in his first 50 games. The following year, Wayne “settled” with 53 goals in his first 50 games.
Two-time Mario Lemieux and Brett Hull are the only ones to add their names to the 50-goal scoring list after the first 50 games of a season.
On Saturday night in Toronto, Auston Matthews added his name to the list of other great scorers in NHL history by scoring, at the expense of Jake Allen, a 50and goal in 50 games. He added one 51and 27 seconds later at the expense of poor Samuel Montembeault who had not yet had time to put in “game” mode after coming to the relief of his teammate who seemed to injure his groin again.
Twice Mario Lemieux, Cam Neely, Alex Mogilny and Teemu Selanne topped Matthews on this list of outstanding players who have scored 50 goals in 50 games in a season.
Is scoring 50 goals in the first 50 games of the season more meritorious than scoring 50 goals in 50 games during the season?
The question is legitimate.
The answers, although different, are just as different.
The Rocket scored 50 goals in a 50-game season. If he had scored his 50 goals in 50 games in a season of 56, 58, 60 games, the very nature of the record he set would be different. We would probably give less, if any, importance to the fact that these 50 goals were scored in the first 50 games.
But the parameters established in 44-45 still serve as the basic criteria for this record today. So it’s fitting that purists refuse to give as much credit to the feat of Matthews and others he imitated as to the feats of those who imitated the ‘Rocket’ by scoring 50 goals in the first 50 games. of the season… or less.
Is it more difficult to score 50 goals in the first 50 games than in the middle or at the end of the season?
It is impossible to settle this debate with certainty.
At the end of the season, eliminated clubs that play without pressure may be easier prey by giving up when they quickly realize that they will suffer one more defeat.
And it is true that it happens.
But when you look at Saturday’s game, the Canadiens are far from giving the game to Matthews and the Leafs. True that Montembeault looked bad on the goal that allowed Matthews to reach 51 goals in 50 games. But he stole another later in the game with a nice right shoulder save.
Conversely, one could argue that it is easier to score at the start of the season, when all the players are well rested; while generally they are not undermined by the weight of the games played in series and the thousand and one injuries, small and big, accumulated over the calendar; while the teams are less desperate to win because they will still have plenty of opportunities to recover.
Which is undeniable, at least in my eyes, and is what makes Auston Matthews’ feat of scoring 51 goals in their last 50 games – including 21 in their last 16 – even more valuable. is that it is much more difficult to score today than it was in the days of Bossy, Gretzky, Lemieux and company.
For the Rocket, impossible to say, because despite my gray hair I did not have the chance to see him dominate the opposing goalkeepers as he did.
Although history can be relied upon to insist that Auston Matthews did not equal the record set by the great Maurice, equaled by the great Mike Bossy and later improved by the Marvel, the Magnificent and the Golden Brett, the fact remains that the feat achieved by the great leader of the Leafs is just as impressive.
At least in my eyes.
Price: time for a big comeback
Martin St-Louis assured him after Saturday’s game: “The injury suffered by Jake Allen does not open the door to the return of Carey Price.”
I imagine what the coach meant is that once he decides to come back, Price will resume his place in the net of the Canadian regardless of whether one or the other of his assistants has signed a few wins in a row and, who knows, a few consecutive shutouts.
With ten games to go, while he seems too strong for the competition during the training sessions he multiplies with his teammates who can no longer outsmart him – confidence of Brendan Gallagher earlier this week – the time has come for Price to make a comeback.
And Monday’s match seems perfectly chosen.
Not only will the Canadiens be back in front of their fans, but the Jets, who will stop at the Bell Center on Monday night, will be playing their second game in two nights since they meet the Senators in Ottawa on Sunday night.
On skates, Price seems ready.
Under the mask, he is the only one able to know if he is ready.
But if he is, salary cap official John Sedgwick will have to juggle a few contracts to clear the space needed to squeeze in Price’s salary, which has been left out of the Habs’ mace since the start of the season.
The exercise should not be too complicated.
The Canadiens could demote Jesse Ylonen and Corey Schueneman to Laval Rocket to free up just over $1.6 million under the cap.
Operated on the wrist on Saturday, Jonathan Drouin will therefore not return to play this season. His name could be added to that of Shea Weber on the Canadiens’ long-term injured list, which would offer relief, opening the door wide open for Price’s return.
With ten games to go, four of which will be played as part of two two-game stretches in two nights, Carey Price could play eight games by the end of the season.
Is it too much?
The answer will come from the injured knee and the goalkeeper’s confidence over the minutes he spends in front of his goal, over the shots he faces and the saves he makes.
But since it is essential that the goaltender, his teammates and the staff are fixed on the chances of seeing Price again at the top of his form and his game next year, whether in Montreal or elsewhere in the NHL, it seems to me that Carey will have to play at least four – six would be better and eight would be even better – games in front of his net.
Starting with Monday evening.
Good Sunday! Happy Masters!